One of the Biggest Culprits of Lost Time in a Race or Workout? A wandering mind…here’s how to catch it.

If I weren’t attached to my runner legs I’m pretty sure I’d lose them. I take the saying, “I’m the worst with directions” to an entirely new level…I make blondes look like GPS tracking whizzes I’m sure. Today I passed the right turn I should have taken, the one that is less thank 2 miles away from my home and that I’ve taken dozens of times and wound up a tad lost or turned around.

fast runner

Step to the line a gamer and STAY that way during the actual race too. ;)


It got me thinking though, do you know what one of the biggest culprits for lost time in races or when running workouts is? The case of the lost mind. It happens to all of us no matter how awesome you are with directions and it happens on the track all the time even though I’ll guarantee all of those runners know to turn left and keep running straight ahead.

What does a case of lost head look and feel like?

* Wandering Mind: You’re in the middle of your workout or race, say miles 2-5 of a 10k…the adrenaline and excitement of the first mile has worn off, you’re not quite close enough to the finish to ‘taste it’ and you’re stuck in the middle. Here is where your mind can JUMP on the opportunity to shut down, meander away from you and get lost. Your thoughts drift to random things, maybe even blank nothingness, but wherever it is it certainly isn’t at the task at hand. If you’re noticing that someone is wearing your favorite shirt on the sidelines and ignoring the fact that your form has turned to the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’ve lost your mind.

* This hurts, I want an ‘out’: Naturally we all think of this but we have to ‘tame’ our mind to forget this and distract it; usually we focus on what we can control (breathing, form, stride, etc.) or look at the person ahead of us to distract ourselves from the hurt. If you get stuck in the endless loop of: 1) Why am I doing this? 2) I’m not even half-way there yet, how will I ever make it? 3) Today’s just not my day, I’ll just give up, who cares? You’re focusing TOO much on the pain and trying to come up with an ‘out’ for yourself. Be honest here, are you looking for an excuse or do you actually have a legitimate reason to stop?
man running
Catch it! The sooner you catch your brain and wrestle it back from La-la-la Land the less time you’ve lost from your race and your workout. But if you wait to long, by the time you check-back in you could have only 100 meters left in the race, and really who can’t run fast for the last 100 meters? By that point you could have needlessly lost a PR or the place you hoped to run.

What SHOULD you be thinking during a race or workout?

* How is my form? Do a form-check.
* How is my breathing? Breathe from your deep belly, not shallowly from your chests, and keep it controlled and smooth.
* Where am I going? Look straight ahead, if it’s on the roads look for the tangents to run, actively be seeking and looking to the horizon. It may sound ‘dumb’ but never loose sight of where you want to go. This go tri-fold if you’re climbing a hill…look high to the crest and lock your eyes on that point.
* Who is ahead of me? Key in on who is in front of you, work on ‘picking people off’ or not letting a gap open up between you and the competition.

Zoning out and letting your mind wander are two different things. Zoning out is when you’re focused on one of the ‘good distractions’ just mentioned, you’re still present in the moment and ‘working’ the race.

Getting lost in life is annoying and a wast of time…getting lost during a race or workout is also a waste of time but you’re also jyping yourself. You’re there, the course is marked, don’t visit La-la-la Land. ;)

1) A wandering mind on an easy run isn’t necessarily a bad thing, here is where randomness helps break up the repetition and can work as a great way to stay consistent and GET the run in. Does your mind tend to wander a lot on easy runs?

2) How do you keep yourself from checking-out during a race or hard workout? Do you have a trick to catch yourself and pull your mind back to present?
I usually do a form check.

3) To battle the ‘cop-out’ and actively look for an excuse to toss in the towel for the day, how do you handle that?
I assess if I actually have an injury that would warrant a stop; if not then I remind myself how I’d feel in a few hours if I quit…probably not too happy with myself.

4) Anyone racing tomorrow? I know it’s been a big weekend for races, some have happened other are tomorrow! Good luck to those yet to race and if you already have, brag on yourself. ;)

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Filed under intervals, motivation, race tips, races, running, tips

21 Responses to One of the Biggest Culprits of Lost Time in a Race or Workout? A wandering mind…here’s how to catch it.

  1. I love it when my mind wanders during long runs I have no agenda for, but you’re definitely right about it being a hindrance for training runs that have a purpose!

  2. Yes, for me it depends on the run. Intervals need sharpness, long runs need a meander-itive dissassocation at times.

    • oh man, long runs if they aren’t structured or part of a workout are prime ‘dream’ time…as i’m sure u can relate i’ve come up with some pretty awesome writing/art inspiration between those miles. :)

  3. Sometimes my mind does wander… but on an easy run, that’s not such a bad thing because sometimes I run to actually think about things and contemplate what to do (especially lately). I always get good ideas and insightful thoughts right after a run too, must have to do with those endorphins!

    With that said, focus is so important in a race- especially a shorter distance because you can’t make up for time later down the road. Usually if I do start to feel negative, I think about my mom, my grandma, my aunt and strong women in my life to keep myself going and stay positive.

    No racing for me. There’s a 5K going on in my town but I’m not a fan of it so I didn’t sign up. And there’s the whole “Losing my job” thing that has me saving some $$ right now.

    • i LOVE that you find strength from the women in your life…great motivators. :) oh man, power to the ‘poor runnerchicks’…we need to unite and get more of those free races going on! ;)

  4. Ted

    Hi ARC,
    That dude in the green’s hair is really fluffy. Else it is very windy.

    • haha…do you happen to follow track and field and want to venture a guess who it may resemble? a hint is he’s a former Badger. though my sketch there may not be doing the runner justice. :P

  5. Laura @ LauraLivesLife

    I am totally guilty of this – sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m watching or listening too (or try to tune out because I’m miserable), that I completely tune out! I think that’s when my form starts to suffer – which is not okay in the scheme of injury prevention!

  6. I loveee all the great advice on what to think about while racing!!
    I think my self-talk while running is probably not normal=I usually talk to myself about how fast my feet should be moving…or when to pick-it-up, and I usually just repeat “run, run, run” in my head :)
    I didn’t race this weekend, but I am next weekend! wahoo!
    I hope you’ve been having a great weekend Cait…when is your next race?!
    xoxo!

    • glad u liked the advice!! i’m loving ur ‘run run run’ mantra, perfect word to repeat in time to those speedy feet of yours! Hope you’re having a great weekend too!

  7. I try to focus on form – the sound of my feet and making sure I’m not hunched over. Sadly, I let my mind wander during mile 3 the Brooklyn Half Marathon and it added about a minute to my time. Lesson learned!!!

    • oh no, sorry you fell victim to a trip to La-la land, but from every mistake comes a lesson learned, so you’ll be savvy to it next time! ;)

  8. love this! my mind has been my biggest ally at times and then also my biggest enemy at times. today i ran a fun little free race locally and i definitely hit periods of both…i finally just focused on a guy in front of me who seemed SO consistent and just tried to stay with him. i also wondered about how he trains because it looked like he had Ironman gear on. It helped get my mind lost a bit in the middle miles. Lately my newest struggle is that i miscount the numbers of the miles!?! I am always one ahead and then realize it too late a mile later and get discouraged. who knows how im managing this!?! haha! your comment about the blondes with the gps made me think of that;) hope you are having a great day friend!

    • oh julz…u crack me up! umm, can i share with you one of my biggest ‘fears’ when running track, it’s that i’ll somehow miscount the laps and wind up either in ur predicament OR i’ll somehow think i have more laps and lose a chance to ‘kick’. :P hey, my excuse is all the oxygen is being put to our muscles and we are just trying to race hard, our poor oxy deprived brains never stood a chance. ;)

  9. I’m pretty bad in workouts. At some point (usually not the first mile or repeat, towards the middle), I get overwhelmed or start to “feel it” and worry I won’t be able to finish. My breathing gets shallow, I think I feel a cramp, etc etc. I usually have to work on bargaining – ie I’ll just stick it out one more repeat and then go from there. Haven’t figured out a strategy for tempos, yet. I’ve never made it though one without stopping (I’m really bad at tempos or have just made myself believe that) every so often, which I think defeats the purpose.

    In races, I’m a little better for some reason. However, I do remember in my last 10K I did sort of letting myself get that “oh my God, how am I going to finish” feeling around mile 4.

    Easy runs – my mind is all over the place, but usually planning my day/week!

    I liked this post, thanks!

    • thanks for the comment and sharing! ahh, yes tempos seem to be many a runner’s bane…i’m a weirdo and like them but that’s because i have NO speed and i feel i can get my groove on more in a tempo run. my trick though is that i think of it one mile at a time and break the workout down in my head. just focus on getting through that single mile, or even that single lap…after 4 laps do the same thing and just like you ‘lie’ to yourself in interval workouts about having more repeats, do the same in the tempo. let me know if that works at all. :)

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